Saturday, 9 September 2023

Books! Superheroes with Paws!

**** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any kind for this review. We simply love sharing books that we find useful. ****

There's always excitement in our house when we receive a package, especially when it contains a book! You can never have too many books, right? Well we've added another book to our collection of working dog books.

Superheroes with Paws, is written by the wonderful Jessica Ten Vaanholt from over Childrens Stories by Jessica. Jess is yet another home grown Australian author.

Jessica wrote the story after she was approved to receive her own Assistance Dog. Working in the early childhood education and care industry, Jessica realised the importance of educating children and families about the important roles that all Assistance Dogs play. And a great way to do that is through books!

It's yet another wonderful, very well written, educational book on the different types of Assistance Dogs and the roles that they play in their owners lives. 

But before we even read the book, this was L's announcement!!

L: Woah, the dog has a red coat like Henry! And it says Superheroes on the cover. Henry is my superhero! This is the best book already!

So what are O and L's take on the book? Read on!

Me: What is the best thing about the book?

O: This is amazing, it sounds like Jessica was writing about her own Assistance Dog. Did she get her puppy yet?

Me: Unfortunately not yet.

O: Oh that's terrible. But this is an amazing book. Jessica talks about the different types of Assistance Dogs.

L: There even a Autism dog like Henry!

O: I love that Jessica talks about the different tasks that the dogs all do.

L: I like the pictures, there's lots of pictures and they all have red coats like Henry's. All the dogs are superheroes. I love this book. And it's easy for me to read too.

O: Jessica has even put information in about why reading books are so important, what a great idea.

L: Can you read it again please?

Me: We can soon, just a few more questions first?

L: Seriously? Okay.

Me: Who would you recommend this book to?

O: Everyone! This is really cool book. The story is very realistic and informative. There's so much information in this one book. This will definitely help to spread more awareness about Assistance Dogs.

L: Everyone needs to read it. Maybe we need to start a library on the island so all the people can read about Assistance Dogs. The old people who keep talking to Henry really need to read all of the books. We can put this one and Henrys book and the Dogs with Jobs book, but they can't keep the books. Can we read it now?

Me: One more question then we can read it again. Out of 5 stars, how many stars would you rate this book?

L: Fine! 5 stars, I think you only buy 5 star books Mummy! We never get a terrible book.

O: Definitely another 5 star book.

L: Now can you read it again? And then you can read Henry's book please?

Me: Sure, thank you for reviewing the book.

L: Please read now?

And read it again we did!

This book would be a great addition to any child's home library.

And just quietly, how amazing do all four of these books look together!

Monday, 4 September 2023

Books! Dogs with Jobs

 *** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any form for this review, they are simply products that we find incredibly useful. ***

If you haven't realised by now, we love books! You can never have too many books, right?

Earlier this year, I self published a book about Henry and it was after the publication that I realised just how few books there really are that focus on Assistance Dogs. So I am now on a mission to collect as many different books about Assistance Dogs. As you can see from the above photo, our collection is quite small at the moment but we will be adding to it over time.

It has been quite a while since our last book review, so we figured that we would start reviewing our books about dogs collection.

First up is Dogs with Jobs 1 and Dogs with Jobs 2!

Dogs with Jobs is written by Australian author Natalie Leski and was first published in 2021.

We came across Natalie's first book quite by accident and just had to order a book. When Natalie published her second book in the series this year, we again had to purchase a copy for our collection.

Both books introduce readers to working dogs of all descriptions and the differences between pet dogs and working dogs. Both books also talk about the importance of being respectful towards all working dogs, regardless of if they are Assistance Dogs or other types of working dogs.

So what are O and L's take on the books? Keep reading below!

Me: What is the best thing about these books?

O: I love both books, there are so many working dogs that people don't know about so it's important that there are more books to educate families. Both of these books have a range of different types of working dogs for people to read about.

L: I like the pictures, they are very colourful and really look like real working dogs. My favourite picture is Emma because she looks like Henry. And the book is easy for me to read. Maybe the old people here on the island need to read these books too because they keep saying Henry is a Guide Dog!

Me: Who would you recommend these books to?

O: Everyone! More awareness and education is needed about Assistance Dogs, People wouldn't, you'd hope that they wouldn't anyway, go and pat a Police Dog while it is working, Yet there are many people who think it is okay to pat an Assistance Dog while it is working. Both have important jobs to do. Both need to be respected.

L: Same. I don't like it when people just touch Henry without asking first. He is helping me. The old people need to read it.

Me: How many stars would you rate both books?

L: How many stars, I can't remember how many we use!

O: Let's rate out of 5 stars. I give them both 5 stars!

L: Me too! And Henry and Alaska love them too!

So definitely great books about working dogs that every home should have! And a 5 star rating to go with them. You can purchase Dogs with Jobs via this link.

Thursday, 3 August 2023

When is Enough Enough?

I am going to preface this with a trigger warning. What I have written may trigger those who have been diagnosed with CPTSD, PTSD or depression. It may trigger others who aren't yet aware that they have one of the above. If you feel that talking or reading about PTSD will trigger you, please stop reading now. If you are triggered by reading this, please reach out.

Please know that I see you, I hear you, I am you.


Several weeks ago, the Queensland Police Service lost a sister in Blue. Yet another live lost. The Queensland Police as a whole are hurting.

They say that no job is worth losing your life for. And they, whoever they are, is absolutely right. No job is worth losing your life over.

However, when the Black Dog of Depression takes a grip, it is incredibly difficult to claw your way out. The grip of panic that the Black Dog has on one's brain, interferes a great deal with whatever the mind is doing. The grip that the Black Dog has, causes the old brain (the primal, fight flight freeze response) to take over and prevents the logical new brain from working in the way that it should. 

That grip of panic, causes a chronic hyper-vigilance for and hyper-sensitivity to threats - either real or perceived. And unfortunately the trauma whatever it may be doesn't stay in the past. That trauma imprints on one's mind and body and that imprint has ongoing consequences.

Unfortunately all Emergency Services Australia wide, the world wide in fact, as well as Defence Forces, medical professions have lost far too many brothers and sisters to the Black Dog.

How many is too many? When will action be taken? When will the powers to be realise that more needs to be done in supporting their staff?

I was diagnosed with PTSD towards the end of 2020. My PTSD, recently it has been advanced up to CPTSD, is a direct result of my policing days aswell as a few other factors thrown in for good measure. I'm not going to go into the details, it is hard enough that I relive nightmares over and over on a daily basis, so I am not going to subject you to these.

But thinking back on it, back to 2009, my diagnosis of Post Natal Depression probably should have been a sign of my PTSD coming to the fore front.

As little as eight weeks ago, my CPTSD was triggered and I found myself slipping. So I reached out in the hope to gain control over the residue of my past trauma.

Admitting and acknowledging how consuming my CPTSD and anxiety is, was and still is, an extremely difficult thing for me to do. Coming to the realisation and acknowledging that I was also masking all of these things, was an even more difficult thing to do.

I hid my CPTSD, I hid my Post Natal Depression diagnosis, away for many years simply because I didn't want people to think of me as vulnerable. I was worried that I'd be judged by those around me. Judged by people who had been in same job and were fine. Judged by people who thought they knew better.

I hid that I needed, and still need, happy pills to think logically. I have over the years attempted to wean myself (with my doctors guidance and support) off of these meds. I now know that these meds are part of my recovery journey.

Had I known the prevalence of Post Natal Depression, general depressive disorders, PTSD, I would have been more open in talking with people.

I recently realised just how much I had been masking, and the huge impact that masking has on my own mental health. I would attempt to pretend that my struggles didn't exist, even when it felt like I was paddling madly to stay afloat. I would tell myself that by helping or pleasing others, that I was putting some good into the world. But by neglecting my own mental health, I was not helping anyone. I was keeping that mental health stigma alive.

I am now acutely aware of what my triggers are (this in itself took a very long time to determine,) and I try as hard as I can to avoid these triggers, or remove myself from them. There are instances where this is not possible and that's where my self care tool kit comes into play.

Living with CPTSD, that grip of panic doesn't go away, it becomes easier when equipped with the correct tools and the right support.

The CPTSD diagnosis reaffirms that I'm not unwell, I'm not weak. It's not that I'm unable to cope with daily life. My diagnosis confirms that there are external factors that are completely out of my control that have, and continue to impact me long-term.

My mantra that I constantly remind myself is that I can't control or change how others treat me, or the things that they may say about me. I can change how I react. By reacting emotionally I am fuelling that behaviour. 

By reacting emotionally, I am fuelling my own CPTSD.

By taking the control back over my own mental well-being, I am providing my children with a healthy mental health role model to end the stigma.

It takes great courage to recognise and acknowledge, both internally to one's own mind and externally to family, friends and work colleagues. Please recognise this as a huge step in an individuals recovery.

Please talk with family, friends and work colleagues. Support one another. Talking with others, that human connection, the understanding of others, can go a long way in supporting those who are slipping into that rabbit hole of the Black Dog.

Friday, 14 July 2023

My Epiphany

Bee is my mini-me. She always has been and most likely, always will be my mini me.

During Bee’s ASD assessment, it honestly felt as though I was discussing my own struggles. I was a very anxious child, teenager, young adult – you get the picture, and at that point I was still on happy pills to settle my own anxiety and ability to completely overthink everything!

I was bullied as a child and teenager because I wasn’t like my peers. I always desperately wanted to fit in but simply couldn’t and didn’t know how. I can remember that I used to study my peers social interactions, how they talked, how they dressed, but for the life of me, I still didn’t understand what they were doing.

As I grew older, I struggled to fit in with the crowd. Social interactions were, and still are, extremely confusing especially if there are several people involved. In crowds, I prefer to stay back and blend in.

I broached the subject several times with the professionals who were doing her assessment and was always told "I can spot an Aspie a mile away!"

I didn’t pursue a diagnosis myself because other than explaining how I see and experience the world, it really wouldn't benefit me. At that point in time, I wanted to put my efforts into assisting my children on their journey. I wanted them to be equipped with the skills that I didn’t have as a teenager so that life could be a little easier for them. Also at that point in time, three out of four in our family had a diagnosis, that's enough acronyms behind our names!!

As time went on, I chose to seek a diagnosis. I was on the path to self-acceptance of who I was, Autism and all. I also realised that like both my children (and Scott,) I too had sensory processing difficulties. The more accepting I was of my own differences, the more my childhood made sense.

I was Autistic and finally proud of who I was as a person, as a wife and as a parent.

My ASD diagnosis has given me a pathway to understanding and has provided clarity to myself and my struggles as a child, teenager, and even now as an adult. It has opened a window of self-reflection, self-understanding, self-empowerment and self-acceptance of myself. Armed with my ASD diagnosis I am finally able to truly like who I was when I was younger and who I am now. I realised that I had been masking my true authentic Autistic self for majority of my life without even realising what I was doing.

My self realisation brought home the glaring fact that girls, when I was in high school, were criminally under diagnosed, and they still are to a point. In fact, individuals who don't present with their Autism traits exactly as what is printed in black and white in the DSM-V, are completely overlooked, discarded and at times misdiagnosed. It served as a valuable lesson for myself, of just how easy it was for a girl like myself to slip through the cracks, unnoticed.

All through school I didn't stand out as needing assistance but I also didn't blend in with the crowd. As a teenager I found it difficult to make myself understood, as well as understanding others. I had difficulty in navigating and making sense of friendships. This internal struggle made me assume that I was unlikeable to my peers, and that perhaps I needed to think of others needs more than my own. The overwhelming need to fit in with my peers was because I knew that I was supposed to. And I wanted to. I would observe and study my peers from a distance, and then attempt to imitate them. But that would usually back fire on me because when the social dynamics became more complex I was completely lost literally and figuratively. I'd be so lost sorting through the social interaction files in my brain, that I'd lose track of the social interaction itself. This then resulted in the mimicking and reflecting peer group behaviour and mannerisms becoming even more difficult. It was a loop that I was stuck in and for the life of me, I could not find my way out.

I was happiest cruising the library, hiding in the science section - science was and still is one of my intense interests. I didn’t enjoy the loneliness but when I was alone, I was out of sight from those around me. Then when I was noticed cruising the library, the bullying would begin. So then an empty classroom became my Sanctuary. I'm sure the teachers knew I was in the classroom, desperately trying to camouflage myself against a back corner, away from the view of my peers. But nothing was ever said, until I was noticed by other students. Then it was back to cruising the library. I'd created a circuit of safe areas where I could hide. The thought of being discovered in my safe areas, caused my undiagnosed anxiety to be even more debilitating.

From as young as I can remember I have always been an over thinker and over analyser! And I'm sure it is something that I will always do. On a side note, being an over thinker and an over analyser did not, and still doesn't help in any way with deciphering social interactions!

As a teenager I assumed, clearly incredibly wrongly, that social interactions would become easier to navigate as I grew older. 

When I told people that I was Autistic, the dismissals were thrown at me extremely fast. I was told that I couldn't be Autistic because I make eye contact. I was told that I was too successful in my chosen careers to be Autistic. Someone told me that I wasn't Autistic enough to be Autistic. Apparently I was too articulate in my communication to be Autistic. 

I have been asked do I wish I knew as a child that I was Autistic. The answer is a very definite yes. I would have been able to create support strategies for myself. I could have connected with like minded people. Would it have stopped the bullying? Probably not, but at least I would have known that I wasn't the odd one out.

Being a late diagnosed Autistic adult is truly eye opening, It hasn’t changed who I am or any other aspect of my life. It has changed how I view myself. I now allow myself to have moments where I do feel overwhelmed by external sensory inputs and I now know that I'm not being over reactive - it is who I am.

Thursday, 18 May 2023

☆ Two years of Henry ☆


Two years of Henry

It really doesn't feel like two years ago that Henry joined our family. It honestly feels like he's been here forever!

This amazing boy has changed L's life and has helped him out in so many ways ❤️

From developing L's emotional regulation skills, to helping L communicate when he's overwhelmed, to his very deep pressure laps and overs, disrupting behaviours and everything in between.

We still have before Henry and after Henry moments, and the after Henry moments far exceed our expectations of just how a task specific trained assistance dog would help L.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023



This was in my memories from 2017. How amazing that 6 years later, we have Henry for L.

Our old pup Ruby always instinctively knew how to help both kids, without any task specific training.

I'd completely forgotten about this interaction at cubs with the assistance when we lived in Perth.

Six years on, and Henry has made such a huge positive impact on L ❤️


Sunday, 30 April 2023

Not a service dog

"Oh they're service dogs. That's so sad, they can't interact with anyone..."

Yes, that was said to my hoomans this morning. Twice. And my mum who is usually very polite, couldn't help herself but respond to them!

It is true, as a working dog (not a service dog, as in Australia that term applies to police and other emergency service, as well as defence force dogs,) we're not supposed to interact with other animals or hoomans when we're working. We have to stay focused on our hoomans so that we can alert to changes that we detect and task.

But when we're out of coat, we do interact with others. It's called a healthy work life balance. We have plenty of downtime to just be puppers.

Friday, 31 March 2023

The Red Step!

See that red step? That was the cause of loads of laughter tonight at Holt Bolt, and all because of the instruction that was given to L.

Coach ... L, I want you to jump on that step 10 times.

So what did L do, he climbed up onto the step and started to jump on it 10 times.

But that wasn't what the coach meant!

As soon as L started jumping, coach realised that he needed to be a little more specific. He wanted L to do box jumps onto the step!!

L was still correct in what he did, he was following the instructions very literally!!

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Team Alaska


Excuse the dodgy photos! This may not look like much, but this is Alaska alerting me that something is amiss. She was jumping up next to me, having a good sniff, and then tapping my arms. If I ignored her, she'd get up into my face, and would push my arm away until she was sitting on it.

What is she alerting for? Not sure, my anxiety and heart rate were a little high, but she was making sure to let me know that I needed to take a break. 

Alaska has been doing this alerting behaviour since a few weeks after we brought her home. Back then, she wasn't sure what to do, other than tap to alert that something was amiss. 

Alaska picks on changes in O's, and in this instance, mine, volatile organic compounds. This is a natural behaviour in all dogs, but usually a dog jumping up is not a desired behaviour in a pet dog so this behaviour is deterred. For an assistance dog, it is a desired behaviour for alerting tasks.

Now, Alaska alerts O on a daily basis and will lay over O's lap (or like today, on my arms,) or will nudge O's arms and hands away from her body.

The tasking we've trained Alaska to do, the alerts Alaska is doing naturally 🥰

Friday, 17 February 2023

The Yogi Awards

This happened this afternoon, presentation of medallions at the annual Animal Therapies Conference.

A little background, the medallion was first presented as an award for showing courage, determination and resilience several years ago at the Animal Therapies Conference. 

It is now known as the Yogi Award after a PTSD Assistance Dog by the name of Yogi. Yogi was instrumental in literally saving their owner/handlers life, a former Police Sergeant. Yogi, like Henry, did a stint in prison as part of a training program!

Usually there is one Yogi Award recipient. This year, Wendy and the board from Animal Therapies Limited couldn't decide on a winner, so there were six individuals and/or teams who received a medallion for showing Courage, Determination and Resilience.

Team Henry were one of those teams, and out of the six recipients, three were young children and their assistance dogs ❤️

Henry, as you all know, has made the most positive impact on L, as well as on our family ❤️

This was such an honour for Team Henry.

Friday, 3 February 2023

The Yogi Awards: Team Henry

What an exciting start to 2023 for Team Henry! 

Late last week we received an email that said that not only had Team Henry, aka Henry and L, had been nominated for the Yogi Award, but also that they were receiving a medallion for Courage, Resilience and Determination. In other words they are being awarded the Yogi Award!

The Yogi Award is an annual award that is run by Animal Therapies Limited. The award recognises the power that human animal interactions have in the journey to greater wellbeing for the human member of the team. The award recognises the courage, resilience and determination that the team displays every day.

This year the award is going to be presented at the 2023 Animal-Assisted Services Conference here in Brisbane.

To say that we're super proud of Team Henry is an under statement.

Henry is just amazing and L has come so far with Henry by his side. L shows Courage, Resilience and Determination every single day.

Usually there is only one overall winner of the Yogi Award, however this year we will be sharing the spotlight with another young assistance dog team - Team Whoopi and his child Erika-Bela.

So very proud right now ❤️❤️

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Assistance Dogs 101: Intelligent Disobedience

Now you've probably read the title of this post and thought, what on earth is that? How can an assistance dog be disobedient and intelligent at the same time????

Well, it's quite an amazing skill for an assistance dog to develop. At times, while an assistance dog is work mode, there are some skills, commands or tasks that we may not want the dog to obey. A really great example is a Guide Dog - they are trained in intelligent disobedience during their intense training before being placed. If the dog is given an unsafe command from their handler, for example to walk out onto a busy road, they are taught to disobey the command.

When a dog is taught intelligent disobedience they are taught to use their own judgement and not respond to the command or cue given by their handler if it is not safe to do so, ie: walking out into oncoming traffic.

In terms of cognitive thinking, an assistance dog who is taught an intelligent disobedient skill is using their cognitive behaviour and/or as they are thinking from their handlers perspective. An assistance dog, such as a guide dog, could easily obey the command and walk into oncoming traffic, but from the handlers perspective this is quite dangerous. The dog is able to understand this and interpret the environment around it at that given time.

During Henry's training he was taught an intelligent disobedient skill in that he was taught to ground himself when sitting at the edge of a road. As L holds his own leash that is attached to Henry, if L went to walk off without Henry being given the command to move forward, Henry will ground himself  to keep L safe.

We've witnessed this skill a number of times since Henry was placed with us back in 2021. The most impressive time was when we were on a family outing on the Sunshine Coast. We had just got out of our car and began to explore when L started walking towards the road. Henry pulled myself towards L, then got between L and the road and gently began nudging L back onto the grassed area. All without being given a command.

More recently we have seen both Henry and Alaska display intelligent disobedient skills, both without being taught.

Late last year we were up at a very large shopping centre with Alaska - it was Henry's day off as he'd had a busy week. Both L and Daddy Superhero were off having haircuts and I was doing some public access training with Alaksa.

Unbeknownst to me, my anxiety levels were rising and Alaska was picking up on the levels. I initially thought that Alaska was misbehaving as as we were walking, she would walk around the front of my body and stop in our path. What Alaska was in fact doing was showing her intelligent disobedience skills be alerting me that I needed to stop and take a break. I found a place to sit and Alaksa immediately lay over my lap to give deep pressure therapy. At the time I didn't realise just how amazing that skill was for Alaska. Now? Wow!

Henry has also shown us his intelligent disobedience skills late last year, While Daddy Superhero was in hospital recovering from his open heart surgery, Henry would regularly push myself, or one of the little superheroes to our couch at home and as soon as we'd sit down. Henry would lay on our laps providing deep pressure therapy.

The first occasion that Henry did this to me, I was attempting to give him the command of place, to redirect him to a mat in our lounge room. He was definitely disobeying that command as he recognised that I needed to sit.

And if witnessing an assistance dog showing it's intelligent disobedient skills isn't amazing in itself, the intelligent disobedient skills have no effect whatsoever on the dogs willingness to obey commands.

Henry, and Alaska, as well as other assistance dogs seem to readily understand that the refusal response to a command is expected and accepted of them when there is a potential hazard or obstacle in the path. For a dog, that is some really impressive cognitive thinking!